City Seeks to Improve Diversity at Specialized High Schools

City Seeks to Improve Diversity at Specialized High Schools

Photo Courtesy of Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photography Office

“For far too long our specialized high schools have failed to reflect the diversity of our city,” Mayor de Blasio said.

By Forum Staff
The City has announced a new plan to make admissions to the eight testing Specialized High Schools “fairer and improve diversity.”
The institutions are: Queens High School for the Sciences at York College; The Bronx High School of Science; The Brooklyn Latin School; Brooklyn Technical High School; High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at the City College of New York; High School of American Studies at Lehman College; Staten Island Technical High School; and Stuyvesant High School.
According to the administration, the student population at the eight SHS is “not representative of” the city’s high school population: 10 percent of specialized high school students are black or Latino, despite making up 70 percent of the Big Apple’s overall student population; female students comprise 44 percent of SHS offers, but 48 percent of all NYC high school students. In 2016, 21 middle schools – or 4 percent of all city middle schools – comprised about 50 percent of SHS offers. The incoming freshman class at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan has 10 African-American students in a class of more than 900.
The City’s two-part plan, which was unveiled last weekend by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, includes:
• Expanding Discovery program to help more disadvantage students receive an offer: The Discovery program is designed to increase enrollment of low-income students at Specialized High Schools. The Department of Education has pledged to immediately expand Discovery to 20 percent of seats at each SHS and adjust the eligibility criteria to target students attending high-poverty schools. It would be a two-year expansion, beginning with admissions for September 2019. Based on modeling of current offer patterns, an estimated 16 percent of offers would go to black and Latino students, compared to 9 percent currently.
• Eliminating the use of the single-admissions test over three years: The elimination of the Specialized High Schools Admissions test would require State legislation, de Blasio and Carranza noted. By the end of the elimination, the SHS would reserve seats for top performers at each city middle school. If the law is passed, the test would be phased out over a three-year period. Based on modeling of current offer patterns, 45 percent of offers would go to black and Latino students, compared to 9 percent currently; 62 percent of offers would go to female students, compared to 44 percent currently; and four times more offers would go to Bronx residents.
“As a lifelong educator, a man of color, and a parent of children of color, I’m proud to work with our mayor to foster true equity and excellence at our specialized high schools,” Carranza said. “With the partnership of the State Legislature, we’re going to live up to what our public schools and what New York City are truly about – opportunity for all. This is what’s right for our kids, our families, and our city.”
However, last weekend’s announcement initially was met with considerable backlash. The new plan has its doubters and opponents.
“You work hard, play by the rules and get nowhere fast,” tweeted City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park). “Now the mayor wants to do away with merit and academic rigor for admission to the city’s top performing high schools. I guess Chinese, Korean and South Asians don’t count as minorities to the mayor.”


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